Free movement of people

ECOWAS is a vast and interesting region in Africa, from its ancient coastal cities to prehistoric monuments and sights in some of its landlocked countries, there is always so much to see and do while on a visit to the most populous part of Africa. In recognition of the utmost importance of movement of people both within and outside the region, the Community signed a Protocol on Free Movement, Right of Residence and Establishment, which has recorded some significant achievements as ECOWAS citizens continue to travel without visas within the region. Legal foundations for the right of residence and establishment have been instituted, and in many cases these rights have been implemented.

There is also the growing use of the ECOWAS travel documents, which can also be considered a success. These travel documents are issued by the 15 member States’ immigration and consular government departments. Despite the legal framework that was put in place over thirty years ago, ECOWAS citizens are facing some limitations to their rights as enshrined in the free movement Protocol.

In the pursuit of promoting the free movement of persons and goods, encouraging cross border cooperation and boosting tourism potentials in the region through the creation of an enabling environment for investment, the Commission enhanced the capacity of Police, Immigration, Gendarmerie, Customs and other relevant agencies charged with the responsibility of Entry and Departure formalities in the common borders. it also enhanced the capacity of Security operatives who will in turn train other operatives. Furthermore, the curriculum of training institutions in Member States was examined to ensure that it incorporates Community citizens’ rights of residence, establishment and human rights.

In addition, the Commission revised and developed comprehensive and strategic provisions as inputs into the revision of the protocol on free movement. This exercise included the development of columns for the monitoring report by member States, provision for refugees and asylum seekers, establishment of a Committee of eminent persons on free movement and redefinition of the concept of the ECOWAS citizen. Strategies have also been outlined to facilitate the effective involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the review process and enabled delegates to provide inputs into the on-going development of a regional migration policy.

The Commission also ensured validation of the technical requirements for a standardized ECOWAS brown card and its deployment by Member States. Furthermore, efforts have been made to address the following constraints being faced by the current brown card scheme namely, domestication of Brown Card modalities, ease of compensation in case of accident or injury, operations of National Bureaux and financial coverage of ECOWAS Brown Card scheme.

The Commission briefed the relevant authorities of Government and other stakeholders on preliminary findings within their respective Member States on the status of implementation of the Protocol on free movement. Furthermore, Member States were sensitised on the on-going review of the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement as well as exchange of ideas on areas highlighted for review in the protocol and mechanisms for the effective implementation of the Protocol at all levels agreed upon. Finally, Security Operatives were also sensitized and trained on the provisions of the Free Movement protocol and relevant texts. It is worth noting that the Authority of Heads of State and Government in its session of 17 -18 July conferred the supervision of the implementation of Free Movement protocol to His Excellency Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso.

Areas for review within the protocol have been identified, experts engaged to revise these elements and a draft protocol has been presented to Member States for ratification. A Sample Prototype for the biometric ID card was also presented to Member States for adoption. The working group has critically analysed and elaborated on the recommendations on the revision process for presentation at the next meeting of the ECOWAS Statutory Committee on Free Movement. The working group has also begun developing modalities for the deployment of biometric identity cards as travel documents within Member States.

The loopholes and divergent areas within the protocol that were earlier identified and documented recommendations have been made for presentation to Ministers in Charge of Security. ECOWAS Member States are expected to take all necessary steps to ensure that they meet the 24 November 2013 deadline for the introduction of the machine-readable passports.

Share on :

Twitter Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Youtube Instgram